Sudbury

Sudbury group to offer free testing of illicit drugs

The Sudbury Action Centre for Youth is getting ready to offer free illicit drug testing in an attempt to curb overdose and death in the community.

Program aims at harm reduction among drug users

A pilot program that officers free testing of illicit drugs will soon be available in Sudbury. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

The Sudbury Action Centre for Youth is getting ready to offer free illicit drug testing in an attempt to curb overdose and death in the community.

The tests will determine if a drug is mixed with something else that could be harmful or even fatal.

Julie Gorman, the executive director of the centre, says the test could mean the difference between life and death for a user.

"So many people, we're seeing, it's not necessarily an opiate crisis as much as a tainted drug crisis," she said.

"People think they're purchasing one thing and they may be overdosing on another."

She says the testing is adapted from a similar program in the Vancouver-area. Gorman says it's easy for staff to use.

"It's just a small strip much like a urine test strip except that this is testing for fentanyl," she explained. There is another test which shows what particular drugs are present. Gorman says people can even drop by the centre with their drugs preloaded and get them tested before use.

Julie Gorman is the executive director of the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

She says the concept of testing illicit drugs is to focus on harm reduction.

"So we understand that you can't go up to someone who's smoking a cigarette out on the street and tell them that hey 'I see you're smoking a cigarette. Let me tell you how to quit. And let me take you to a place that can help you quit,'" she said.

"Some people are up for that. Other people will tell you to go away. We have to assume the same thing for other substance use."

Gorman says some users don't want help, but it's still important to help reduce harm to them.

"We will have to work with people where they are at and that is the point of most harm reduction services," she said.

Chasse Gibeault, a harm reduction outreach worker with the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth demonstrates how a drug testing kit is used. 1:43

"We are trying to reduce the harm by meeting people where they are in the community."

The program has been reviewed by Sudbury Police. Staff Sergeant Rick Waugh says police won't be staking out the centre to prosecute drug users.

"The priority is always and will always remain to be preservation of life," he said.

"That's our priority when it comes to the opioid crisis in our community is that we're a big proponent for harm reduction."

He says police hope the program saves lives.

Usually, consumers want to know exactly what they're buying. In the case of street drugs, you just never know. That's why a group in Sudbury is trying to take the guess-work out of illicit drugs in order to save lives. As a part of a new harm reduction program, Sudbury Action Centre for Youth is going to offer testing of street drugs. The group's interim executive director Julie Gorman joined us in studio to explain how the testing will be done. 10:18

With files from Kate Rutherford

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